Osborne House

The Isle of Wight :: England, Part Two

I am spatially challenged, and I’m not talking about the Urban Dictionary’s definition (though I could stand to lose a few pounds.) I mean that when I try to do something in a mirror, especially backing up a car, I sometimes have a hard time making my actions match my intent. So it was no surprise that nearly every time I went to get in my friend’s car when we were in England, I went to the wrong side. Add in the fact that she drives a Toyota with a manual transmission (which means she shifts with her left hand) and I was completely disoriented when we were on the road, as in,


Of course we weren’t in the path of an oncoming car but I never could quite shake the freak-out reflex when we were driving on the wrong side of the road. I did, however, finally manage to start keeping my mouth shut about it, which is good considering she chauffeured me around the Isle of Wight for two glorious, beautiful days.

The afternoon we got off the ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde was typical seasonal weather: gray and a little foggy, with a chill in the air.

But the following two days were sunny and unseasonably warm, which made our two major jaunts on the Isle of Wight so very lovely—I especially loved the unusual cloud patterns in the sky.

First stop was Carisbrooke Castle, which is where King Charles I was imprisoned before his trial. He was eventually convicted and executed for high treason. Carisbrooke is where I started becoming genuinely interested in British history. We spent a couple of hours here reading snippets of history about the castle, watched a brief documentary and then explored the nooks and crannies of the fortress, including a chapel to commemorate those lost in the Normandy invasion.

From there we visited Osborne House, which was Queen Victoria’s favorite summer home (Yes, I said, “favorite.”) It was built for the queen and her husband Albert, who designed the structure with an Italian flair. It’s breathtaking, to be sure, but what was equally impressive were the gardens, where the couple reportedly spent a lot of time together. I love the iron trellis adorned with what was arguably their logo, AV. As you’ll soon see they incorporated it throughout the estate.

Once inside the house we were met by strategically placed docents or employees, who enthusiastically filled us in on Queen Victoria’s family and personal life. I didn’t know much about Queen Victoria but after visiting her summer home on the Isle of Wight I was dying to read more about her reign.

Check out the children’s dining table.

The outside of the house is quite majestic. There’s a brilliant view of the ocean from the back “porch.”

Things I did not know about Queen Victoria:

  • She was barely five feet tall.

  • She reportedly had quite the sexual appetite (she did have nine kids.)

  • She took the throne when she was 18.

  • Her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, was thought by some to have been Jack the Ripper. (Most historians don’t think this is a valid theory. But it was fun to talk about at Osborne.)

  • After her husband died she wore black for the remainder of her life — about 40 years.

After we left Osborne we went down the street to St. Mildred’s church, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attended. They had a special door on the side that led to a private seating area, so they could discreetly come and go.

Coming up: I will tie up loose ends of my time in England, Including a stop at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, a rainy day at Winchester Cathedral, and a super quick jaunt to the Tower of London.